Aberystwyth, Ceredigion: Dragonflies have a family history dating back hundreds of millions of years, almost as old as the Silurian rocks beneath my feet
My route home was badly overgrown and I made slow progress, looking down at the rocky, uneven ground and concentrating on keeping a good foothold. Bees and small moths swirled up from around the wild flowers and long grass at the base of the hedge, then something much bigger blundered away from under my feet.
The abrupt, jerky flight was a surprise, and oddly reminiscent of the tiny hummingbirds of western California – but this was a dramatically more ancient organism. As it rose above the tangled grasses, the wingbeats of this golden-ringed dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) were clearly audible as a deep chitinous drone, the frequency modulating as it repeatedly changed direction. I watched it fly further up the path, expecting it to veer away and be lost to view, but instead it settled again on a tall stem.
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